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Abercrombie & Fitch Refuses to Make Clothes for Fat Women

Abercrombie & Fitch refuses to make clothes for fat women?

Published May 13, 2013

Claim:   Abercrombie & Fitch refuses to make clothes for "fat women."

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, May 2013]

I heard that Michael Jeffries of Abercrombie & Fitch, while being interviewed and asked why there are no XL clothes in his stores, commented that he only hires and markets his clothing to "cool, thin kids." Any truth to these statements?

Origins:   In May 2013, popular teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire for not stocking XL or XXL sizes in women's clothing because they supposedly "don't want overweight women wearing their brand." According to claims, the company has insisted on sticking to its guns regarding notions of conventional beauty even as those standards have become outdated, maintaining it wants the "cool kids" as customers and doesn't consider plus-sized women as being part of that group. This approach contrasts with those of rival retailers such as H&M, which has a plus-sized line for women and recently introduced a plus-sized model in their swimwear collection, and American Eagle, who offer sizes up to XXL for both men and women.

(Abercrombie doesn't include women's XL or XXL on its

size chart, and its largest listed offering in women's pants is a size 10. H&M's standard line goes up to a size 16, and American Eagle offers up to size 18.)

Robin Lewis, co-author of The New Rules of Retail and CEO of The Robin Report newsletter asserted that Abercrombie's exclusion of plus-sized women is not surprising in light of attitudes expressed by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries: "He doesn't want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people. He doesn't want his core customers to see people who aren't as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they're one of the 'cool kids.'"

Much of the criticism directed at Jeffries was based on remarks he made during an interview with Benoit Denizet-Lewis which was published by Salon in January 2006, such as the following:

When I ask him how important sex and sexual attraction are in what he calls the "emotional experience" he creates for his customers, he says, "It's almost everything. That's why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that."

As far as Jeffries is concerned, America's unattractive, overweight or otherwise undesirable teens can shop elsewhere. "In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," he says. "Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don't alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either."

Critics contend it's time for Abercrombie to acknowledge that plus-sized is no longer a niche market for women and stop ignoring it, such as Margaret Bogenrief at ACM Partners:

For too long, this sizable and growing segment has been ignored. Treated shabbily, ostracized by the "pro-skinny fashion world," and seemingly discarded by designers, department stores, and retailers alike, plus-size fashion consumers, critics, and bloggers are taking back their spending and sartorial power and, in turn, changing both the e-commerce and retailing landscapes.

Last updated:   13 May 2013

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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